The Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line was pretty bad last season and new offensive lineman Gabe Carimi was not signed to fix it—at least not to the level you would expect from a former first-round draft pick.
On Monday the Falcons announced Carimi had been added to the roster. He was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Chicago Bears and spent two seasons there before being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the 2013 season.
Carimi was cut by the Bucs on Feb. 10 after only starting three games and playing 218 snaps last season. He only started 16 games over two seasons in Chicago while dealing with knee issues and a not-so-positive transition from the college to professional game.
Fans shouldn’t get too excited about a young (Carimi will turn 26 in June), former first-round talent joining a unit that struggled mightily in 2013. Carimi isn’t in Atlanta to save the day. The gist of the signing is that he’ll add depth along the offensive line. That’s what Bucs Insider Jenna Laine, of 1080 the Team in Orlando, stated.
@knoxbardeen You have to appreciate Carimi's versatility - can play guard, tackle, tight end, but hasn't shined in one particular area...— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) February 17, 2014
According to NFL writer Brian McIntyre, Carimi’s deal is for one year and worth $850,000, which makes this move by the Falcons an absolute dream.
Gabe Carimi's 1-yr contract with the Falcons is worth $850k, I'm told. $645k base, $65k to sign, another $140k in "per game" roster bonuses— Brian McIntyre (@brian_mcintyre) February 19, 2014
Atlanta is getting a young player with considerable upside that’s never quite panned out. Because it’s a short-term, low-cost contract, there isn’t much that can go wrong.
Carimi played 152 snaps at left guard last season and 66 at right guard, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He’ll start as depth behind Justin Blalock and whoever wins the eventual position battle at right guard, whether it is Peter Konz or a yet-to-be-named free-agent addition or draft pick.
In his two seasons in Chicago, Carimi played 834 snaps at right tackle and 174 at right guard. Now the Falcons have a backup at right tackle, too. Carimi will be able to play behind whoever wins the job at right tackle; Sam Baker, Lamar Holmes or a yet-to-be-named free-agent addition or draft pick.
Yes, there are still a large number of questions in regard to Atlanta’s offensive line. The fact that Carimi can answer some of those questions at three, possibly four, positions at the backup level is huge for this team. And since head coach Mike Smith adores cross-trained personnel along the line of scrimmage, Carimi will play a huge role as a backup.
Where will Gabe Carimi be used the most in 2014?
It’s also huge that Carimi and new offensive line coach Mike Tice have history together. Tice was Carimi’s line coach in Chicago in 2011 and his offensive coordinator in 2012. There is a level of comfort there that should benefit the Falcons and Carimi’s potential growth.
“I definitely know what Mike Tice looks for in a player having been with him in Chicago for two years, Carimi told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Feb. 18., according to Pro Football Talk. “So it’s good to be reunited with him.”
What the Falcons and Tice are going to look for is someone who can bolster an offensive line unit that gave up more quarterback pressures (264 according to Pro Football Focus—subscription required) than any line in the NFL last year and had tons of trouble opening holes for its running backs. Atlanta finished dead last in the NFL in rushing at 77.9 yards per game.
Carimi has never been much of a pass-blocker in the NFL. He graded at a plus-one or better only three times during his three-year career, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He’s been a much better run-blocker with seven career plus-one or better grades from PFF.
It might be that guard is a much better spot for Carimi with the Falcons, if he ascends from the rank of backup. Or possibly Tice can figure a way for Carimi to reignite his career as a right tackle in Atlanta. Either way, where Carimi plays when and if he hits the field isn’t as important right now as the depth he provides.
The Falcons are in no way done making moves to revamp this offensive line; Carimi is just the first step. And he’s a can’t-lose first step because of the clearance sale price tag the Falcons scanned and purchased. If nothing pans out and Carimi is a solid backup in 2014, all is good.
If, however, he puts things together and eventually becomes a starter, Atlanta’s move to sign Carimi moves from can’t-lose to stroke of genius.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.